Made a lightning raid a little over a week ago into one of the great cities of Frontier Partisan history. Talkin’ about San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio is, of course, the home of the Alamo, which has obvious resonance as a shrine to one of the epic moments in Frontier Partisan history. But there’s more.
The trip — a newspaper conference with my Mullen Newspaper colleagues — started with a stark reminder of the human impact of the Wars of Empire.
A snafu at the car rental counter put me on the taxi line at the San Antonio Airport. A small, wiry man jumped out of his taxi and hailed me. I told him my destination and, without thinking about it, climbed into the front seat. He gave me a bit of side-eye, and I told him I’d get in back if he was more comfortable with that. He shook his head and gave me his phone to punch in the unfamiliar B&B address.
Of course, we got to talking. And what a story Sayed had to tell.
The man who was now a taxi driver in San Antonio had been an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He saw serious combat. He fled Afghanistan two years ago, when it became apparent that the U.S. was leaving and that the Taliban were again on the ascendant. He described the Taliban as “very scary,” both in appearance and in action. He was very glad to have gotten out before the mad rush of the final departure in August 2022 — but his family is still in Afghanistan, and he has little hope of getting them out. Which means he probably won’t see them again.
I found myself short of breath as Sayed matter-of-factly described a tragedy that had permanently upended his life. Because we Americans are responsible for it. All I could do was thank him for the work he did — at the constant risk of his life — on behalf of American forces and his own country, and tell him I was sorry that we abandoned him.
As I’ve written here before, we have a bad tendency to abandon indigenous fighters when our need is done. Ask the Apache Scouts, the Stockbridge Indians, the Hmong and the Montagnards, the Kurds.
Captain Rick Schwertfeger and his lovely wife Marcia Desy drove in from Austin to link up on Saturday, February 18. We ate a big Mexican breakfast at the legendary Mi Tierra — founded in the 1930s and still family-owned — and walked past numerous Spanish colonial sites to the Alamo. I upgraded our free admission to tour the museum and its artifacts.
There aren’t too many artifacts from the 1836 siege, for obvious reasons, so they’re mainly artifacts of the time period and place. There is a rifle that belonged to David Crockett — but not the one he wielded in the battle.
Lady Marilyn dug up this tale about Crockett’s Texas Rifle:
At the beginning of February 1836 David Crockett’s rifle broke off at the breech on his way to San Antonio.In Mina, later called Bastrop, Crockett found a gunsmith, who could repair his rifle. The gunsmith name was John Berry, and he fixed Crockett’s rifle, by placing a silver band over the barrel.The story about Crockett’s rifle was told by John Berry’s wife, Hannah Berry (1812-1904), and printed in Andrew Jackson Sowell’s book ”Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas, 1900”. It reads:“In 1836, when Col. David Crockett of Tennessee came to Bastrop on his way to join Col. William B. Travis at the Alamo, in San Antonio, he had with him a very fine gun, but it had been broken off at the breech, and he was very anxious to have it mended before reaching San Antonio.“Someone said, to Colonel Crockett when the broken gun was mentioned, ‘Take it to John Berry; he can fix it for you.’ Crockett came to Berry’s shop in company with John McGee and brought the gun with him. Mr. Berry examined it, and saying he could fix it all right, at once set about the work. A large silver band was placed around the broken place, and so securely fastened that it was as strong as ever and very ornamental when polished and flowered off. Colonel Crockett was well pleased, and said it was now better than it was at first. The gun was lost in the Alamo when Crockett was killed in the famous battle.“Mention has been made several times of Crockett’s beautiful silver mounted rifle which was taken by the Mexican army to Mexico when the war was over. The silver part of it was the band over the broken place put there by John Berry. Mrs. Berry says she would know the gun now if she could see it by the silver band she watched her husband put there. She remembers well how Colonel Crockett looked, and says he did not wear a cap while at Bastrop.”
History of the OK Corral has a piece on Jack Hayes’s stand at Enchanted Rock:
It is a shame about Sayed. We need to change our policy to our indigenous allies.
I use work at Safeway with a woman from Afghanistan. She went back there and wonder about her from now and then.
lane batot says
Great trip/post! Saddened by the story of Sayed, but what a story! I’m quite willing to pay tax dollars to help these individuals–and their families–who sacrificed so much for us! America(United States) does have a rotten record for such betrayals/abandonment–even though some individual Americans do their best to help(at least…..)
Keith West says
Great post. Looks like the weather was nice to you. And I approve of the choice of beer.
I am sickened by how we treated our friends in Afghanistan and hope Sayed will somehow find a way to get his family to safety.
Thought of you while I was there. I know the Alamo means a lot to you.
John Maddox Roberts says
And let us not forget that the filibuster in BLOOD MERIDIAN sets out from S.A. (then known as Bexar, pronounced “bear”).
Yep. Good call.
Quixotic Mainer says
Looks like a great trip! Glad you didn’t have to sort out any surly bartenders!
The bartender at the Menger was quite friendly. Maybe they’ve learned their lesson.
Good stuff all around!
Jerry N says
Caught by the high waters of the Sabine or I would have loved to have joined y’all there!